How Long Does A Lawsuit Take To Settle?

This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Terry Crouppen who has more than 40 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney. Our last modified date shows when this page was last reviewed.

This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Terry Crouppen who has more than 40 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney. Our last modified date shows when this page was last reviewed.

Jennifer Walsh, Attorney

Personal injury claims are often settled within 1 year starting from the date that the claim is filed. In cases that involve serious injuries or are not settled and instead go to trial, it often takes 2-5 years to receive compensation, but ultimately it will depend on the complexity of the injuries and associated claims.

  • Auto accident cases with clear fault and non-complicated injuries often settle within 6 to 9 months after treatment is complete.
  • Cases involving commercial defendants, premises liability claims, and/or more complicated injuries take longer—9 to 12 months after medical treatment is complete.
  • Catastrophic injury claims are unique. Some settle within 3 months while others can take several years.
  • In some cases, a settlement is not achieved and a personal injury lawsuit goes to trial.

However, these are just averages. Every case is unique, and the average settlement amount and timeline of personal injury lawsuits depends on the circumstances of the case.

Personal Injury Lawsuit Overview

A personal injury claim or lawsuit consists of another party who acted with negligence (or wrongfully), which caused the injuries of another individual or group of individuals.

In a personal injury claim or lawsuit, a lawyer must be able to prove the other party caused injuries as a result of negligence in order to settle or win a case for their client. There are three elements to this:

  • The negligence. Negligence is broadly defined as “the failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances.” What qualifies as negligence for a specific injury depends on the circumstances of the case. It might be defined by laws or regulations, or it might be defined in the common law (the law of court cases).
    • For example, a homeowner who forgets to put away gardening tools and leaves them out where somebody might step on them and get hurt isn’t breaking any laws. The homeowner is not trying to deliberately hurt anybody. They are just being careless.
    • On the other hand, a commercial property owner who refuses to repair a dangerous condition, such as crumbling stairs or unstable railings, may be facing more than a claim of ordinary negligence. They may also be violating zoning or municipal ordinances.
  • The causation. The injured party must prove that the defendant’s negligence caused their injury.
    • Sometimes, causation is obvious, especially for acute or sudden trauma. If you break your leg in a car accident, no credible insurance company will try to argue that your broken leg was a preexisting condition.
    • For many claims, however, causation is hotly contested. Have you been having headaches, back cramps, and dizziness since getting rear-ended? Even if they admit fault, the other driver’s insurance company doesn’t have to admit you’re injured. They can (and often do) claim that your symptoms are from something else—your age, your job, your preexisting condition.
  • The injury. Personal injury law focuses on the injuries that did happen, not the injuries that might have happened. Leaving a rake on the lawn is careless, but if nobody steps on it, nobody gets injured.
    • Your lawyer must prove the element of injury, which includes pain and suffering. An insurance company can (and often will) admit to their insured being at fault. That does not mean they have to admit you were injured.
    • Some of the best evidence in an injury claim is the medical records themselves, which show the extent of the injuries and the treatment needed.
    • Many people won’t notice pain until several hours or even days after the accident, so we strongly encourage our clients to seek medical attention as soon as possible. The longer it takes you to seek treatment after an accident, the harder it is to prove that your injuries are related to it (which is the causation element).

A personal injury lawyer must prove all of these elements in order to win their client’s case.

Factors That Impact The Timeline Of A Personal Injury Lawsuit

Many issues can affect how long it takes to resolve a personal injury claim. Here are some of the most common: 

1. The Type Of Negligence Involved

Not all negligence is equal under the law. For example, it is a relatively simple matter to prove negligence in a rear-end collision. It is much harder to prove medical negligence after surgery on an already-sick patient goes poorly.  

2. Whether Liability Is Contested

If there is disagreement about who is at fault, the longer a case can take. 

3. Severity Of The Injury And The Length Of Necessary Medical Treatment

Simply put, the longer it takes to complete medical treatment, the longer the personal injury lawsuit usually takes. 

4. Number Of Parties Involved In A Case

A lawsuit against a single defendant with a single insurance policy is likely to be a much simpler and faster case than a lawsuit involving multiple corporate defendants with overlapping coverage.

5. Whether A Lawsuit Has Been Filed In Court

Non-lawyers often use the terms “lawsuit” and “claim” synonymously. However, there is a difference between the terms:  

A claim is not a lawsuit. Rather, it is a potential lawsuit. An injured person makes a claim with the party who bears financial responsibility for the negligent conduct, usually an insurance company. The parties can exchange information, negotiate, and settle the case without ever filing any paperwork in court.

A lawsuit is a legal filing in court that brings formal accusations against a defendant. Once a lawsuit has been filed in court, the timeline for a case often (but not always) gets longer.

A personal injury lawyer must prove all of these elements in order to win their client’s case.  

Get Help With A Personal Injury Claim

Here are a few of the ways personal injury lawyers earn their keep:

  • We protect our clients from big insurance companies. One of the very first things an experienced personal injury attorney will do is notify the other side that you have a lawyer. Once you are represented, the insurance companies cannot badger you about your injuries.
  • We investigate your case while you focus on recovering from your injuries. You should not have to run around town gathering up medical records and tracking down witnesses. That’s our job. We also identify all negligent parties, insurance policies, and anything else the investigation reveals.
  • We know that there is more to a personal injury lawsuit than just your medical records. Not every injury has a billing statement attached. You may find yourself unable to remain physically active. Relationships can change, including sexual relationships between married partners. Lost wages need to be calculated, as well as the possibility that you may be unable to work in the future. We look at all of these issues and many more for every client we represent.
  • We know when the time has come to file your case in court. The two most common reasons a lawsuit gets filed are these:
  • Negotiations have broken down. Sometimes the parties simply cannot come to an agreement.
  • The statute of limitations is about to run out. Once that deadline has passed, it is too late to pursue a claim any further. Lawyers sometimes must file a lawsuit to preserve the claim.

As lawyers, we want the best possible outcome for each client. If you have any questions, you should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. They will be able to evaluate your case and offer advice on your options.

Every personal injury client at Brown & Crouppen gets a legal team with lawyers and paralegals who have years of experience. If you have been injured and you want a free, confidential consultation, call toll-free at 1-888-801-9825 or submit your request online.



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